C. Rutherford had the distinction of being Alberta's first Premier. He was
known for his strong support of public education, particularly the University of
Alberta, and his active involvement in community affairs.
Alexander Cameron Rutherford was born on February 2, 1857,
on a farm near Osgoode, Carleton County, Ontario. He was the son of James
Rutherford and Elizabeth Cameron and was a Baptist.
He was educated at a local public school; Metcalfe High
School; and the Canadian Literary Institute, a Baptist College located at
Woodstock, Ontario. And in 1881, he graduated from McGill University in
Montreal, receiving Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Civil Law degrees.
Alexander C. Rutherford was called to the Ontario Bar in
1885 and practiced law for ten years in Kemptville, Ontario, as a junior partner
in the law firm of Hodgkins, Kidd, and Rutherford. On December 19, 1888,
he married Mattie Birkett, daughter of William and Elizabeth Birkett of Ottawa,
Ontario. His father-in-law was a former Canadian Member of Parliament.
Alexander C. Rutherford and his wife Mattie had three children: Cecil Alexander,
Hazel Elizabeth, and Marjorie Cameron.
1895, Alexander C. Rutherford and his family moved to Western Canada, and he
established a law practice in the community of South Edmonton, District of
Alberta, North-West Territories. After practicing law on his own for nearly
five years, he established the firm of Rutherford and Jamieson in 1899.
From 1896 to 1905, he was Secretary-Treasurer of the South Edmonton School Board
and from 1899 to 1906, he was Secretary-Treasurer of, and Solicitor for, the
Town of Strathcona.
In 1896 and 1898, Alexander C. Rutherford unsuccessfully
contested the electoral division of Edmonton for the Legislative Assembly of the
North-West Territories. In 1900, he was elected President of the Strathcona
Liberal Association and supported Frank Oliver, Editor of the Edmonton
Bulletin , at the federal general election of that year. Alexander C.
Rutherford was then elected to the Legislative Assembly of the North-West Territories for Strathcona in 1902, and subsequently served as Deputy Speaker of
the Territorial Assembly from 1903 to 1905. In 1903, he was elected to the
Council of the Strathcona Board of Trade. Following his election as the
first President of the Liberal Party of Alberta in August, 1905, he was
appointed Premier of Alberta by Lieutenant-Governor George
H.V. Bulyea on
September 2, 1905, the day after the Province of Alberta was established.
His government was sustained by a large majority at the general election of
November 9, 1905.
As well as serving as Premier, or President of Executive Council , during Alberta's First Legislature, Alexander C. Rutherford was also
Provincial Treasurer and Minister of Education. His Liberal Government
established the law necessary to make the transition from territorial to
provincial status, started a public telephone system, expanded roads and
railways within the Province, constructed a number of public buildings, and
established a teacher-training facility and the University of Alberta. As
well, he attended the Provincial Premiers' Conference at Ottawa in 1906, was a
delegate to the Imperial Education Conference in London in 1907, and was a
member of the federal government's Commission of Conservation in 1909.
At the general election of 1909, the Rutherford Government
was reelected with another strong majority and Alexander C. Rutherford continued
to serve as Premier, Provincial Treasurer, and Minister of Education.
However, on May 26, 1910, he resigned from the Cabinet. His government had
become badly divided, primarily as a result of its decision to guarantee the
bonds of railway companies, in particular those of the Alberta and Great
Waterways Railway. He continued to serve in the Alberta Legislature as a
In 1911, he initially let his name stand for the federal
Liberal nomination for Edmonton, but later withdrew it and, in 1913, he ran as
the Liberal candidate at the provincial general election for the electoral
district of South Edmonton, but was defeated. In 1921, he campaigned for
the Conservative Party during the Alberta provincial election.
Following his electoral defeat in 1913, Alexander C. Rutherford returned to the practice of law with the firm Rutherford, Jamieson,
and Grant. From 1916 to 1918, he was Alberta Director of the National
Service Commission and immediately after World War I, he served as a member of
the Loan Advisory Committee of the Soldier Settlement Board. And finally,
from 1927 until his death in 1941, he was Chancellor of the University of
He had many business associations. At various times,
he was President of the Edmonton Mortgage Corporation, Vice-President of the
Great Western Garment Factory, and a member of the Board of Directors of the
Canadian National Fire Insurance Company, the Imperial Canadian Trust Company,
the Monarch Life Assurance Company, and the Great West Permanent Loan Company. Alexander C. Rutherford was also actively involved in
religious, fraternal and community organizations.
Alexander C. Rutherford's service to his community and the
Province of Alberta has been recognized in many ways. In 1911, a new
elementary school in Edmonton was named after him; in 1951, a University of
Alberta library was named after him; and in 1954, a mountain which is located in
Jasper National Park was named after him. A list of some of his other
honours follows: Honorary President, Edmonton Football Club (1895); Patron,
Strathcona Curling Club (1902); Honorary President of the Strathcona Baseball
Club, Curling Club, and Football Club (1903); Honorary Doctor of Laws, McMaster
University (1907); Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Toronto (1907);
Honorary Doctor of Laws, University of Alberta (1908); King's Counsel
(1913); Honorary Colonel of the 194th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force
(1916); Honorary Life Member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks
(1916); Honorary Doctor of Laws, McGill University (1931); King's Jubilee Medal
(1935); King's Coronation Medal (1937); and Honorary President of the Canadian
Authors' Association. He was also a Fellow of the British Association for
the Advancement of Science and the Royal Colonial Institute of London, England.
During his lifetime, Alexander C. Rutherford collected
books about Canada. His fine collection of Canadiana now constitutes part
of the collection of the Rutherford Library at the University of Alberta.
Alexander C. Rutherford died on January 11, 1941, at
Edmonton, Alberta, and was buried in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery in that city.
In 1974, his restored home at 11153 Rutherford Drive, Edmonton, was officially
opened. From 1912 to 1938, this was the site of the annual Founder's Day
Tea which was originated and hosted by Alexander C. Rutherford and was attended
by the students and staff of the University of Alberta.
here to learn about Rutherford House, the home of Alberta's first premier!